Saturday, 14 November 2015

Standing on the edge of the abyss: Comments about recent events

Today I am yet again going to break my self-imposed rule about not making what could be regarded as being political comment on my blog. If such a course of action offends you, then please do not read any further; if you wish to read my views about recent events then please read on ... but please do so with an open mind.

Events in Paris last night were more than shocking. Coming as they do in a week where we remembered those who died during the wars of the twentieth century and of this century, they were a brutal reminder that we are presently in a state of war, a war against terror, a war against people who regard their own death – and the death of others – as steps towards their idea of how the world should be.

I lived through the Cold War. Our ‘enemy’ was easy to identify and – to a certain extent – predictable. I can remember taking part in Civil Defence exercises to see how well London’s transport system could cope with evacuating the capital’s population in the event of a possible nuclear attack. I can also remember the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we seemed to stand on the very edge of the abyss of nuclear war, only to pull back at the last minute when calmer heads realised that once such a war started, no one would emerge as a winner. The world was a dangerous place, but not an angry one.

I can never remember the world as being such an angry place. Everyone seems to be angry about something and – what is most worrying – is willing to express that anger in the most violent ways available to them. We seem to have forgotten our humanity. We seem to have forgotten that the people we are angry with – and upon whom we visit our anger – are just like us. They are not mindless avatars in some great 3D video game; they are flesh and blood, with lives, families, loves, aspirations, doubts, concerns.

Is there a way in which the world’s anger can be dispelled and tensions reduced so that we can make the world a safer place? I would like to think that there is ... but I cannot for the life of me see how it can be done. Politicians of all political viewpoints pontificate about how good their policies would at making life better for everyone if only we all did what they proposed ... but since the beginning of recorded time no political creed has managed that. One would hope that religion or a shared moral philosophy might point a way forward ... but as long as people argue about whose belief system is right and whose is wrong, then it is more likely to evoke anger than to assuage it.

What I find amazing is that last Saturday I watched a TV programme where the situation the world seems to be in – and the solution that we will have to face – was summed up very well indeed. One does not expect that to happen, but I would like to share it with those who might not have seen or heard it.

The following was part of a speech made by the eponymous hero of DOCTOR WHO towards the end of the episode transmitted on the BBC on Saturday 7th November, 2015:
‘So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one? ... This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they’re always going to have to do from the very beginning – sit down and talk! … You're all the same, you screaming kids, you know that? ‘Look at me, I’m unforgivable.’ Well here’s the unforeseeable, I forgive you. After all you’ve done. I forgive you.’
Do we have to stand on the edge of the abyss again to make us realise that we must all step back and stop before we destroy ourselves? If only it was possible for people to forgive each other, and to learn to live with and appreciate their differences rather than to use them as an excuse to exercise the anger they feel ...

If only ...

48 comments:

  1. I'm not sure that the world is any more angry than it has ever been but news is instant and what are relatively small actions by small groups are accorded military status by a media needing to fill every 24 hour period.

    ‘Look at me, I’m unforgivable.’ Well here’s the unforeseeable, I forgive you. After all you’ve done. I forgive you.’
    These words are the foundation of 2000 years of Western Christian Civilisation.
    The words of our Christian God just rehashed by a fantasy scriptwriter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nobby,

    I agree that the advent of 'instant' news coverage does not help, but I do find that people in general are more angry than they used to be about even the most trivial of things. For far too many people anger - and violence - seems to be the first response to anything that they don't like. I was working in a sixth form college in the last four years before I retired, and I came across a lot of angry young people. They were angry about everything ... but could not explain why. 'I've got issues' was one of the things that I heard all the time. Anything and everything that did not go the way they wanted it to was somebody else's fault ... and that person had to be confronted.

    As to the statement about forgiveness ... well for some people who have not had a grounding in Christianity or whose knowledge of its basic precepts in non-existent, this rehash might just get the message across. If it does, then that can be nothing but a good thing.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  3. I doubt that Dr. Who will make any difference at all. There can't be many watching whose depth of thought would perceive hidden messages.
    If we've reached the state where fantasy entertainment has replaced life values it's going to be a long haul back to decent values, and when did we ever have them I wonder?

    ReplyDelete
  4. http://jim-duncan.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/liberte-egalite-fraternite.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nobby,

    You may well be right ... but if it makes the difference to one person, then it is one small step back from the abyss.

    Has fantasy entertainment replaced life values? Difficult to say ... but I am put in mind of the fact that both C S Lewis and J R R Tolkein both seem to have been strong believers in life values, and in Lewis's case his books have very strong Christian overtones.

    I am of the belief that most people do have decent values, but that because life seems to have lost any meaningful structure, they cannot see how having them is of any use. Perhaps that is why I see so much anger around me. I just don't know. What I do know is that the world that I live in makes less and less sense to me day by day. Things that I hold as central to my beliefs are assailed on all sides and held up to ridicule.

    Am I angry? I could be ... but I try not to be.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just a comment but everyone seems to have the right to be insulted and to have that insult addressed. I wholeheartedly subscribe to Christianity's message for practical purposes summed up by the women, mainly, of our family who's refrain at a localised outburst of name calling and upset is 'less said, soonest mended.' Maybe it's a trite comment but needs to be applied on a much larger scale.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Service Ration Distribution (Hobby),

    I totally agree with the sentiment of your comment. If people just reflected for a moment before responding to a perceived slight or insult, then they might just realise that their immediate response was excessive and possibly even uncalled for.

    Because I grew up with a terrible stutter, I was taught to think before I spoke in order to plan what I was going to say before I said it. I only wish that sometimes other people did the same.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally agree with everything you said. As you remarked, the speech by the Doctor in last week's "Dr Who" episode said it all.

    ReplyDelete
  9. A truly sad day for humanity. It is best to recall that the vast majority of people of all races and religions mostly want to live their lives in peace, and in reasonable freedom. The flood of people exiting from Syria, etc, are doing so, at great risk, to get away from the violence afflicting their homelands.

    I like the Dr Who quote, but still prefer H. G. Wells' proposal, famous (to us) as it is:

    And if I might for a moment trumpet ! How much better is this amiable miniature
    than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist.
    Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or ,disaster
    --- and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor
    devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom
    and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every
    gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to
    remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence. This world is
    for ample living; we want security and freedom ; all of us in every country,
    except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world
    at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We
    want fine things made for mankind --- splendid cities, open ways, more
    knowledge and power, and more and more and more, --- and so I offer my game,
    for a particular as well as a general end ; and let us put this prancing monarch and
    that silly scare-monger, and these excitable " patriots," and those adventurers, and
    all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork
    carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and
    cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers --- tons, cellars-full, --- and let them
    lead their own lives there away from us.

    ReplyDelete
  10. David Bradley,

    Thank you for your comment. It was odd the way things seemed to come together: the speech made by Peter Capaldi, events on Remembrance Day, and then the murders in Paris. I just felt that I had to write about it.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gonsalvo,

    Funnily enough, the words H G Wells wrote in LITTLE WARS also came to my mind when I was writing this blog entry. If only it was possible to do what he proposed. Perhaps it would make the world a safer and more peaceful place.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think I can imagine what might have be affecting your sixth form college students, Bob. Just a guess, but I haven't completely forgotten my own youth. School is coming to the end, whereupon they have to make their way in the world. They look at the future... and it's a complete blank, a void. In my day the future was unknown and just a bit scary, but promising as well. But there is a difference between an empty page upon which to write, and no page at all.

    For a lot of school leavers, so opaque is the future, it might as well not exist: if they're lucky, they'll find paying work; if luckier still, they might get a liveable income; they might be really fortunate and find themselves eventually in a position to raise a family. Owning their own home? Forget it. Ain't gonna happen.

    Our generation had it soft, Bob, no error. Kids these days will have a much, much tougher row to hoe. When my daughter was born, I wondered whether we had done her any favours bringing her into this world. Twenty-three years later, I'm still not sure...


    ReplyDelete
  13. Well said and to comment on a previous poster; stories are how we understand the world and we had them before the major religions that dominate today's political landscape.

    And as to life.

    While there's life here's hope. No matter how dark it may seem life is worth living.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Bob, what a thoughtful and beautifully weighted post in this time of sadness and uncertainty. Thank you for your fine example.

    Best wishes,
    Aaron

    ReplyDelete
  15. No easy answers. One thought and not a new one, no disrespect intended to either species but if you put too many rats in with too few resources, they will also find reasons to fight.

    Extreme inequality makes it all worse but even if all had an equal share we either need a near spaceship style with total emphasis on supporting 1 species or we need to travel a long hard road and cut back everything, to get back to a more balanced earth.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Bob,

    Thank you for your wisdom and insight. I don't see what you've written as "political" at all. (Someone, somewhere will undoubtedly disagree, I suppose.)

    One thing that really troubles me about our current situation--terrifies me, actually--is my feeling that we do NOT have our humanity in common any more. We are facing fanatics who don't mind at all if they die: they are more than willing to sacrifice themselves in order to crash planes into buildings, or machine-gun travelers in airports, or blow up cafes, movie theaters, buses--the list is endless. And the fact that innocent people, even children, also perish is immaterial to them. These people apparently do not have families, or day-to-day concerns, or any sort of compassion. How do we cope with this? Be on our guard? Against what? Resort to military action? Against whom? Capture and occupy territory? Which territory?

    Maybe things aren't as hopeless as they seem right now. One can hope...

    Best regards,

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  17. Archduke Piccolo,

    Yours is a rather bleak view, but one that I recognise as having a lot of truth to it. During the forty years I was involved in education there was a shift in emphasis to a system where two conflicting pressures - the pressure for success (i.e. a competition ethos) and the pressure for everyone to be a 'winner' (i.e. a non-competitive ethos) - were trying to work side-by-side ... and failing the young people who were going through the system because the messages they got were more than a little confused.

    When I started out in the early 1970s my headteacher told me that everyone was good at something, and that my role as a teacher was to find out what that was, and to help them to develop it. Nowadays were have politicians who want everyone to be better than average at everything ... which is - of course - a mathematical and an educational impossibility!

    Did we have it easier than young people now? I'm not sure. The world was a very different place when I was growing up to the way it is now. Yes, I did manage to get jobs when I needed to (something that a lot of my students always complained they could not) but some of them were jobs that no one else would do. (I won't go into details, but some of them were truly stomach-churning.) When I told my students about the jobs that I had done, their response was almost always universally 'I wouldn't do that for any money' or 'I'm too proud to do that sort of job'. Their aspirations were to earn lots of money doing jobs that they liked with people who were their friends; they had no concept of a work situation where that was not the case.

    Society has 'sold' young people a dream that cannot - for most of them - be fulfilled, and I suppose that it is no surprise that a lot of them are angry as a result. Finding out that you have been lied to is not pleasant, even if you might have been partially complicit in the process because the lie was always more attractive than the truth.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ashley,

    Allegories are a great way to get people to understand and think about complex issues. As you point out, this has been a very useful 'teaching' tool since the beginning of recorded history, and continues to be so today.

    I also agree that hope is important, and that without it our lives can easily become barren and ultimately pointless.

    Here's to life and to hope!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  19. Prufrock (Aaron),

    What I wrote came about as a result of my desire to put my own thoughts about recent events into some sort of order. I am please that you thought that they were thoughtful, and I thank you for your kind comment.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  20. Ross Mac,

    An interesting comment, and one that puts a somewhat different slant on matters. I must admit that I had not looked at things from that point of view, but it does help to explain why some people may be behaving the way that they are. I somehow doubt, however, that the prospect of population and resource management and fairer shares for all will be seen by politicians as politically desirable, even if it was supported by the Fabians and similar groups at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  21. Bob, 2 disparate thoughts. When I was in Military College I was a bit bemused that we were all expected to "exceed expectations" on performance reviews. Seemed like a dishonest use of language. essentially the only ones that should be marked "met expectations" were those that hadn't actually.

    I do wonder sometimes about the feelings of the poor aircrew who dropped incendiaries on cities during WWII not to mention the A bomb. or those who ushered people into concentrations How many honestly believed the end justified it and how many were secretly tortured by it for years?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Chris,

    There are some people out in there who regard any comment about current events that is not totally in keeping with their own ideas are dangerous political comment ... which is why I put the warning at the beginning of my blog entry. Think of it as my version of the man who tells you that he always speaks his mind ... just before he insults you! In his mind the fact that he has given you fair warning that something unpleasant might be coming means that you cannot justifiably take offence if you don’t like what he says.

    You pose an interesting conundrum. How can you reason with someone who sees conciliation as weakness, and who has so little regard for his own life that he sees no value in anyone else’s. The answer is ... you cannot reason with them. What you have to do is to break them away from the structure that constantly fills their minds with hatred for what they don’t understand and promises that death will make everything that is wrong with their lives right.

    This is not a new phenomenon, and education (or even re-education) is the only answer that I can see as having any real chance of working. The fanatical members of the Hitler Youth that my father fought – and killed – during the latter stages of the Second World War had been brought up in a society that valued life cheaply whilst making the members of their group feel that they were superior to everyone else. After the war was over, most of them realised that they had been lied to and were gradually re-educated to become normal people. The same is true – I understand – for many of the boy soldiers who have been captured after having served in various African ‘armies’. Most of them have been able to make the transition from apparently psychotic killers to young men thanks to proper support and education.

    There is hope ... but the solution is not going to be a quick and easy one.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ross Mac,

    It is quite easy to 'exceed expectations' if you set the 'expectations' bar low enough!

    Seriously though, the language used when assessing anything these days is full of disingenuous words and terms that say one thing, but mean something else. For example, when I was still a teacher OfStEd (the Office for Standards in Education) used the term 'satisfactory' to mean 'not good enough'. Confusing? Well it was to us until we 'learned' the Newspeak used by our new masters.

    In answer to your second question, the research shows that aircrew suffered less stress about killing people than front line infantry solders because the physical distance between them and the target gave them a psychological 'distance' that the infantryman did not have. Colonel David Grossman's book ON KILLING contains an excellent study about this, and is well worth reading. (Incidentally, David Grossman is an avid opponent of 'shoot 'em up' video games because he claims that they are desensitising youngsters to the process of killing. When you look at the 'kill' count during Desert Storm of US Army tankers who were trained on computer simulators it is quite amazing to see how effective it was as a training method.)

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  24. An interesting post Bob. At first I thought that it was wrong to link the angst of millenials with the violence and terrorism of extremist religion but then recalled this article: http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/the-inside-story-of-the-british-suicide-bomber-of-ramadi-by-tam-hussein/ one that explains it better than I could and is worthy of a read.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Pete,

    Thank you very much for the link. I read the article with great interest and found it very informative.

    My students came from a very mixed background, and included Afghans, Somalis, Russians, Hungarians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Jamaicans, Albanians, and British nationals. Quite a few were of mixed ethnic origin, and all the major religions were represented. Several of them had quite fundamentalist religious beliefs, but although religious discussion was allowed, no single point of view was allowed to predominate or to denigrate another.

    Gangs were a problem outside the college (one of my students was killed by a local gang because he happened to be with someone the gang were after) but any examples of gang-related activity were well and truly stomped on by the college principal ... which is probably why a particular gang decided to fire rocket flares at the building one lunchtime.

    A coming together of gang culture, angry disillusionment, and misunderstood/half-baked religious belief sounds like a very dangerous mixture ... and I can see how it could lead young men to become jihadis.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  26. An excellent post Bob, and it is instructive that the comment that I was planning to make has already been made eloquently here by so many people.
    Radicalism will not flourish in an environment where there is happiness with life. What does that mean? Certainly not that people can have all their desires met. Their will always be more to desire. Gainful employment is the number one factor. Security of the essentials - food, housing, electricity - and of one's legal rights. The chance to raise a family comfortably. I just read an article that states that maybe 70% of France's prison population is made up of Muslims. Is it any wonder that their dreams have turned into nightmares?
    Unfortunately, the response of the powers that be will not to be to address this most difficult of situations - that would require radically rethinking the role of government in economic affairs - but the much easier path of building bombs to drop on people.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I haven't got much time for religion myself but Tolkein and Lewis,as Christians, saw their stories as tales of good versus evil and in some ways reflected the fight against evil in the form of the Nazis. We are at war now with evil, in the shape of ISIS. There is no doubt as to their evil nature as they remind us in their own twitter postings. it is not 'collateral damage', however regrettable, that results in pursuing a just end. Many French civilians died in the invasion of France but the vast majority of French people were glad to be rid of Nazi rule. We are talking about grinning bearded savages who kill in the name of religion, who torture, rape women,children and goats,confine the female part of their populaoe to permanent house arrest, or to move around in portable black tents and try their best to exterminate, Christians, Yazidis and 'apostate Muslims.'

    ReplyDelete
  28. What I find it hard to come to terms with is the total inconsistency of the media and indeed governments. For the last 24 hours sky news has hammered the paris massacres from every angle. Foreign governments have pledged support and indeed Facebook has a campaign to let users have the French flag on their profiles. As far as i can tell everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that the same terrorist group that hit Paris on the 13th with some 250 casualties also carried out a bombing in Lebanon with 250 casualties in Beirut. In fact it's as if it hadn't happened . I just don't get it? Do we really not care because if so there can never be a solution!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Your school is far more multi cultural than than my old high school (65% Muslim, the rest a mix of Sikh and (nominal) Christian, though more than 95% of all students UK born). Although there was no gang problems at all... It has been 21 years since I left so I've no idea what it is like now.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Natholeon,

    Thank you for your kind comment. The response to my blog entry has included some of the best and most informative comments I have ever read.

    It would seem that a consensus as to the underlying causes behind the growth of this sort of terrorism is beginning to emerge from amongst the people who have responded to my initial blog entry. Whether anyone who is in a position to enact the sort of policies that would solve this problem can or wants to acknowledge the causes we have jointly identified is a moot point. If they did, then it would require the sort of radical changes you suggest in your comment.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  31. James O'Connell,

    When people claim that they are doing something because their religion 'requires' or 'excuses' it, I get very, very worried. I know enough about Islam to believe that it is a peaceful religion that does not advocate violence, and that those who use it as a cloak for their activities are truly evil. I also believe that those who use their particular brand of Christianity to justify their intolerance of others are equally evil.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  32. Robert De Angelis,

    You are absolutely right to remind us that these incidents are not unique to western countries, and that people living in or near the area occupied by ISIS are suffering far more than most of us can imagine. The recent bomb in Beruit is only the latest in a long series of such atrocities.

    The problem is that the western media is exactly that ... western. Events in the west will always be higher up the agenda than things that happen elsewhere in the world. A sad thing ... but unfortunately true.

    Do we really care? I think that most of us do, but don't know how we can turn that into actions that will have a positive effect on the situation.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  33. Pete,

    The school I attended had a population that was 100% white and almost 100% Christian. The first school I worked in - which was in Harlow in Essex - had a similar population. It was only when I moved to London that I entered the world of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic education in a school where a third of the pupils were white Europeans, a third were Afro-Caribbeans, and a third were Sikhs. The thing I discovered quite early on was that regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or class almost everyone had similar needs and aspirations.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  34. Mr Cordery,
    I was originally going to comment upon your post. Instead I wrote my own post.
    This can be found at The Independent Wargames Group blog.
    Thanks You.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you for this thoughtful reflection, Bob.
    As an intentionally religious person, I think of my own faith's history and how it took us four centuries to go from the Reformation, when we killed other Christians for small doctrinal differences, to today, where very very few would sanction holy war. I think Islam is going through a similar evolution, and we may only be at the start of it. However history unfolds, I am not prepared to believe that all Muslims are our enemies.
    If religion offers any solution, it is in the first principle that we are all created beings living on a created earth, and that all are thus endowed with the dignity and life that is the gift of the creator. If we accept that premise, religious war becomes impossible. As a soldier friend of mine said yesterday, find a Muslim and hug him or her, or at least, tell them that you are glad they live in Canada as a neighbour and fellow citizen. Save your anger for those who would break those bonds in the name of a misbegotten and false version of Islam.
    I'm not prepared to be hateful. But, as a soldier myself, I'm prepared to do protect my country and our allies' countries. There's a difference between the two.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Robbie Rodiss,

    Thank you for your comment. I have written a reply on The Independent Wargames Group blog which I hope that you will find enlightening.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  37. Michael Peterson,

    I am glad that you found my blog entry thoughtful. It would appear from the comment written by the previous person to comment on my blog did not. (See The Independent Wargames Group Blog)

    I agree with your analysis that Islam is going through a similar period in its history as Christianity did during the Reformation, and hopefully it will emerge a better and stronger religion. Islam acknowledges the fact that Judaism and Christianity are sprung from the same root, and in Islamic writings Jews and Christians are referred to as 'People of the Book' whose religions should be respected.

    I know and have worked with many Muslims, and their opinion of the so-called religious views propounded by IS is that they are heretical and a threat to genuine Islam. If called upon, I would also defend my country, her allies, and my beliefs from the threat of extremists of all sorts, but I would hope to do it without hate in my heart; if I could not, then I would feel that I am no better than they are.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks for the reminder of that great speech in Dr Who, Bob. A timely reminder. I've been feeling very angry myself about the outrages in Paris, but I realise we need to move beyond anger.

    As others have pointed out, it's a very Christian message, but if it takes a popular fantasy programme to get it across then so be it.

    I tend to agree with you, Ross Mac and Archduke Piccolo about some of the reasons for the anger. Some of the hypocrisy seen by young westerners has the same root, in my opinion, as the hypocrisy seen by jihadis and their supporters. Crikey, some young westerners even become (misguidedly) jihadis. That doesn't excuse anything - there is still personal responsibility.

    I'm not suggesting that holding hands and singing Kum By Yah will solve the problem, but understanding the background can't do any harm and might just possibly help us find a way out. If there's any salvation it will surely come from the realisation that we are all connected.

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  39. Nundanket (Chris),

    Thanks very much for your comment. The speech from DOCTOR WHO may well have been a basically Christian message revamped by a sci-fi writer, but the message remains the same. I think that we all hope that at some point the conflict will come to an end, and that both sides must then forgive what the other has done if a lasting peace is to be achieved. I also think that - as Churchill once said - 'Jaw, jaw is better than war, war' remains true; if only it were possible to talk to those who 'lead' IS so that a solution could be found that does not involve the loss of so many lives ... but as other comment makers have pointed out, that is not an option because those 'leaders' do not see such action as anything other than weakness.

    Western society today has many ills, and it is not surprising that people - and especially young people - are attracted to charismatic leaders and movements that offer them what appears to be a 'quick fix' to their problems. 'Lonely, confused, trapped, isolated, and misunderstood? Join us, and we will give you friendship, certainty, freedom, companionship, and understanding!' seems to be the sort of 'come on' used by any number of extremist organisations, whether they be political or religious.

    Ironically, the concepts enshrined in France's Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité are those which so many of the disillusioned seek for themselves.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Kev,

    Thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

    Until you mentioned it, I had not seen the parallels between current events in the Middle East and the Boxer Rebellion, but now that you have pointed them out, I can. I had thought that the way IS is behaving in the areas it occupies was akin to the way the Taipings had behaved, but had not brought my thinking forward to events towards the end of the nineteenth century.

    I am afraid that your analysis of how events might pan out may well be very close to the way that matters will unfold. I think that we are looking forward to a future where the threat of terrorism will see a growth in both overt and covert security measures, and where we will have to be in a constant state of vigilance.

    As to multi-culturalism ... don’t get me started on that topic! (Warning: a rant will now follow!) I worked in an environment where it was constantly being emphasised (‘We don’t want to force our pupils to listen to diet of western, Christian point-of-views or to cause offence by not giving their culture equal status to our own, do we?), and where I was regularly told that because I was white and male I was a racist and an oppressor. I saw regular religious observance for all faiths disappear from our schools and be replaced by little more than a coming together so that the headteacher or a senior member of staff could read out a load of notices. I saw the history that I taught perverted and bastardised to serve political ends, and when I baulked at it and pointed out how inaccurate what we were teaching was, I was told to shut up or teach something else ... so I did the latter.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  42. I have just had lunch with a friend who's daughter is a local GP. Lindsay teaches her children. She was having an early dinner on Friday night literally 100 yards from the concert venue where the slaughter happened. They were eating early as the restaurant was fully booked later. They were back in their hotel nearby about 15 minutes before everything kicked off. You think these things don't really personally touch you but it could have been easily so v different.

    Guy

    ReplyDelete
  43. Guy,

    Your friend and their family must be so thankful that their daughter had to eat early on Friday night. It also shows how much luck can play such a part in our lives.

    I have lived and worked in South East London since the mid 1970s, and have been close to two IRA bombs when they went off. The first was the bomb that was thrown into the King's Arms public house, Woolwich. My wife and I were standing about two hundred yards away at the time, but because we were just around the corner from the pub, we weren't injured. The second was the bomb that was set off at the then headquarters of the Army Education Corps in Eltham Palace. I was sitting in my office at the time, in a building that was separated from the AEC HQ by a playing field. I felt the bomb go off just before I heard it. The office's window was cracked by the blast, but did not shatter ... which was lucky.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  44. I've often wondered if the only way to stop all this stupidity of fighting is to have an all out free for all over there. I find that since Vietnam, no country except the UK is willing to go the distance, fight a campaign, willing to use its troops knowing full well that there will be casualties in large numbers, to get a job done.
    I remember a certain American president expressing on TV in 1990 proclaiming "This will not be another Vietnam" in regards to fighting in the Middle East. And yet in 2015, we are still seeming to have to fight there.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Irishhighlander,

    I suspect that the political will no longer exists in the UK to fight another war. The fiasco of the so-called dossier that justified our involvement in the invasion of Iraq still rumbles on today. The Chilcott Inquiry into the affair has gone on for longer that the UK's involvement in the fighting ... and still won't be published until some time next year.

    The Falklands Conflict was very different, and the aggressor and their objective were very clear. The UK had a morale right to take the islands back from the Argentines, and the vast majority of the population were behind the government's decision to send a task force to do so.

    The same is not true today. The sight of transport aircraft landing at regular intervals at a UK airbase to unload the bodies of the fallen from a war the people of the UK did not understand or fully support has made the population far less likely to support another full-scale war. In some ways it has become our 'Vietnam' moment.

    If a terrorist attack on the scale of what happened in New York (9/11), London (7/7) or Paris were to take place now in the UK, that might change people's attitude, but until there is a clear and present danger from an identifiable enemy, I cannot foresee the UK's involvement in a conflict in the Middle East to be anything more that marginal.

    I suspect that the only way the IS will be defeated is by a full-scale, all-out war ... but unless the main fighting against IS is done by other Muslims (with technical support from other countries), it will be possible to portray the war as another crusade by infidels against Islam.

    IS has recently been portrayed by some of the Western media as a product of the West's interference in Iraq and Afghanistan. This of course ignores the fact that the Saudi royal family have been behind the particular Islamic sect that IS draws it beliefs from for a very, very long time. (The Feisal family's links with the sect go back to the time of the Ottoman Empire.) The revenues that IS has come mainly from selling 'black market' oil. How? And to whom?

    The rise of IS is as a result of one sect within Islam trying to impose their particular brand of Islam on other Muslims, and thanks to the West's long-term involvement in the Middle East, we have become involved. We are certainly part of the solution, but only a minor part of the problem.

    Sorry to sound so 'preachy', but I have done a lot of thinking about this over the past few days ... and I am still very unsure what we in the West can do to end the situation. I am gradually coming around to the feeling that we will have to fight on the ground against IS ... but it is not a prospect that I find much enthusiasm for.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi Bob,

    Tolerance of Saudi complicity - by God are people paying for that Faustian pact.

    For a depressing survey of of our involvement in radical Islamism, across many countries and decades, have a look at Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam by Mark Curtis.

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  47. Nundanket (Chris),

    I doubt if many people in the West have any idea about the links between the Saudi royal family and the Wahabi sect (and one can assume that amongst those that do are senior politicians and their security and policy advisers) and yet this information is freely available. As you comment, the link is a truly Faustian pact.

    I had not heard of the book that you mention, but I will try to look it up when I have the time.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete